Pop Culture Odds and Ends – May Day Edition

Happy first day of May! While this date used to be commemorated with festivals and May baskets, now it just means that I need to pay my rent, which is decidedly less glamorous. I think we should bring all those celebrations back, if for no other reason I could use a day off from work and it is a gorgeous day outside. I’d even be willing to dance around a Maypole if need be.

While I try to convince my boss that we should be observing this ancient spring festival, kick back and enjoy your bi-weekly roundup of pop culture stories that you might have missed. If you see a story that you think should be included in this feature, please feel free to hit me up on the blog’s Facebook page or tweet me (@AsHeathersWorld). And don’t forget to vote to decide what my summer viewing project will be; the polling sample is small at the moment, but The Good Wife is off to a narrow lead. Finally, a very special welcome to all the new people following the blog – your readership is much appreciated!

Now let’s get our pop culture on!

  • Seth Rogen and FX are teaming up for an animated program about Bigfoot.
  • Check out this jazzy cover version of Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” that will be in The Great Gatsby:

 

  • However, the soundtrack also features this horrific cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.” Beyoncé is fine, but Andre 3000 ruins it:

 

  • Johnny Depp is in talks to star in the big screen adaption of the Broadway musical Into the Woods.
  • The Madonna/Elton John feud has been squashed. This has really been going on a decade?
  • A woman recreated the opening of a bunch of TV shows for her hubby’s birthday:

 

  • More pop culture birthday: a How I Met Your Mother themed party.
  • Mad Men has gone to the dogs:

 

  • After the success of Veronica Mars, Zach Braff has also turned to Kickstarter to fund his new movie. For some reason, this has people all worked up into a tizzy. I know it’s not cool to say, but I actually really liked Garden State, so I’m eager to see this new film.
  • All My Children and One Life to Live have been revived; the soaps started an on-line only run o Monday.

Renewal news:

  • The CW has renewed The Vampire Diaries, Heart of Dixie and Beauty and the Beast. They also picked up The Vampire Diaries spinoff, The Originals.
  • NBC has renewed Parenthood (yay!), Chicago Fire, Revolution, Grimm and Law & Order: SVU.
  • Two and a Half Men will be back, short a half man; Angus T. Jones will not be a regular.
  • Comedy Central has renewed The Jeselnik Offensive and Nathan for You.
  • MTV has renewed Snooki and JWoww and is reviving Nick Cannon Presents Wild n Out.

 

  • Paul Scheer and Will Arnett decided, for unknown reasons, to recreate the Bill Clinton/Arsenio Hall interview (with some creative license):

 

  • Armie Hammer and Tom Cruise are slated to co-star in Guy Richie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E film remake.
  • Neil Diamond is donating the profits from “Sweet Caroline” the week of the Boston bombings to a charity for the victims.
  • Quentin Tarantino’s car – driven by John Travolta in Pulp Fictionhas been recovered 17 years after it was stolen.
  • This guy nails his Louis CK impression (NSFW):

 

  • This is kind of spectacular: Norman Reedus (Daryl from The Walking Dead) photobombed a Game of Thrones fan picture:

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  • The Tony nominations were announced. Tom Hanks is closer to getting an EGOT.
  • In honor of the Red Headed Stranger’s 80th birthday, watch Willie Nelson’s “audition tape” for The Hobbit:

 

  • I haven’t played in years, but I was interested to hear a new Grand Theft Auto game is coming out in September. I always enjoyed that game, though I mostly just drove around and wrecked stuff.
  • Watch SNL’s Kate McKinnon do her Ellen DeGeneres impression for Ellen on Ellen:

 

  • Fans of The Simpsons may want to check out this website that encourages artists to reinterpret Homer Simpson.
  • Supervillian speed dating:

 

  • This is hilarious – E.L. James, author of the Fifty Shades of Grey series – is releasing a writing advice journal. Those books were a lot of things, but well written wasn’t one of them.
  • NBC will allegedly be burning off the remaining episodes of the dreadful Do No Harm over the summer.
  • Watch a short film directed by Michael Cera:

 

  • I didn’t make it again this year, but the winners of the Tribeca Film Festival have been announced.
  • Michael Bublé put on an impromptu show in the NYC subway:

 

  • House of Card’s Corey Stoll is attached to a vampire pilot for FX from Carlton Cuse and Guillermo del Toro, based on the del Toro’s book The Strain.
  • A musical Dowton Abbey spoof? Why thank you! (contains spoilers)

 

  • Uproxx created a power ranking of Ted’s girlfriends on How I Met Your Mother. Zoey should have been much lower – she was the worst.

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts:

  • It’s a quip off between Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess and Game of Throne’s Lady Olenna
  • Here’s a mashup of trailers for summer 2013 movies:

 

  • The Game of Thrones/Friends mashup (contains GoT spoilers):

 

  • MineKart 64 – Minecraft and Mario Kart 64:

 

  • Statler, Waldorf, & Inglourious Basterds

 

  • This Taylor Swift/Demi Lovto mashup (“I Knew You Had a Heartattack”) is pretty catchy:

 

  • Mad Men and The Simpsons both have done episodes involving Planet of the Apes, so it was only a matter of time before someone put them together:

 

  • An Arnold Schwarzenegger supercut:

 

  • And finally, here is Cookie Monster singing Tom Waits (NSFW). I am embarrassed to say how many times I have watched this:

A Reader Suggests – Grimm

As I mentioned in my post about Snow White and the Huntsman (now we know why Kristin Stewart looked so happy in that movie!), even though I am a grown up without kids, I still like fairy tales. Like most things in my life, I tend to be more attracted to the darker versions of these tales; I am more Team Grimm Brothers and less Team Walt Disney. I like the monsters and the creatures much more than the idea that every little girl is a princess that will need to be rescued by her prince.

So when some readers suggested that I might like Grimm, they weren’t too far off base. On paper, the show would seem to be right up my alley. Last fall when Once Upon a Time and Grimm debuted, I was interested in both of the shows. However, because of my aversion to investing time in a show that may not get picked up for a second season (or that might not even make it through its first season in its entirety), I was hesitant to watch either show when they debuted. I already have a more than full plate when it comes to television shows, so I have to be more discerning when adding new ones. I decided to give them a year and see how they did; if they were renewed for a second season and I heard some good buzz about them, I would check them out. I finally had some down time to work on my summer viewing projects and decided to start with Grimm, as its second season had an earlier premiere date. After watching all 22 episodes of season one, I have to say that I was ultimately disappointed in the show. It turned out to not be as great of a fit for me as I would have predicted.

Grimm’s concept is, all things considered, pretty straight forward: Portland cop Nick Burkhardt discovers that he is a “Grimm,” a guardian that is in charge of maintaining the balance in the world between humans and the mythological creatures (referred to as “Wesen”) that most people associate with Grimms’ Fairy Tales. These creatures appear as humans, but Nick is able to see them for what they really are. Nick receives help in his duties from a Wesen named Monroe, who has reformed his previous bad behavior and forms an unlikely friendship and partnership with Nick. Nick struggles to keep his Grimm identity a secret from his partner Hank and his girlfriend Juliet.

I have to say that I enjoyed the pilot episode and thought the show held some promise. The concept of a Grimm hunting down rogue fairy tale characters in and of itself interests me. My problem with the show is that underneath the original cool idea, this show is basically a police procedural. For the most part, Grimm is a “bad creature of the week” type show. Every episode features a new case for Nick to solve, always tied into a murder investigation for his day job, with results in mostly contained plots. There aren’t a lot of story lines that run through the episodes. Each week, the viewer is introduced some new variation of mythical creature – there seems to be an endless supply – that we don’t seem to ever hear about again after the case is solved. Murder, creature discovered, determine how to capture said creature, solve case. Lather, rinse, repeat.

As you can probably tell, as a rule I’m not particularly interested in procedurals. I find them boring and predictable. They are basically the same show over and over again. I like my dramas to be more complex in their plots – I prefer shows that have storylines that run through episodes and that reward viewers for watching every episode and for paying attention. When things are wrapped up neatly in a box every week, I tend to lose interest. I didn’t know that Grimm was a procedural going into the show. I guess I was hoping it was going to be more like Lost and less like CSI: Insert City Here.

I will tune in to a procedural, however, if the characters are particularly compelling or interesting. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit had characters and actors that I enjoyed, so I watched the show for years despite its crime of the week structure. The show wasn’t about just a series of horrific crimes, but how Benson and Stabler and the rest of the SVU crew reacted to these crimes. There was character development in the episodes; most cases also pulled back another layer of the characters’ personalities. Unlike most of the Law and Order brand, the viewer got to know the investigators and the baggage that they were bringing to these cases and their interactions with each other.

In my estimation, however, Grimm doesn’t have very compelling or interesting characters. Most of the characters on the show are pretty vanilla; they don’t have much depth to their personality. Nick is the star of the show, but I find him kind of boring. After 22 episodes, I don’t feel like I really know anything about him. He’s a bit of a blank slate. But he’s Mr. Personality compared to Juliet and Hank, who I find beyond boring. At least Nick has something of a back story that has the potential to be interesting. The story arcs that have centrally involved Hank were my least favorite, because I really didn’t care what happened to him. Hank and Juliet are just kind of there.

The one character that I do really like on the show is Monroe; he makes up for what all the other characters are lacking. He is funny and I feel like we know and understand his character most clearly. When Monroe is in danger, I am incested. My favorite scenes are inevitably ones that he is involved in. When Monroe is on the screen, I pay more attention. When he isn’t, I’m more likely to pick up my tablet and play Scramble with Friends.

I was tempted to bail out on Grimm after the first 13 episodes. I must confess that when I started the project I thought that there were only 13 episodes – for whatever reason in my mind, Grimm was a midseason replacement show. But I was compelled to finish the first season; I hate to quit things before they are completed. I’ll read a book to the end that I hate, simply to finish it and see if it can somehow redeem itself. I’m a bitter ender. I stick with things longer than I should; my only regret about leaving my doctoral program is that I didn’t do it sooner. So I soldiered on and watched the rest of the episodes and have to say that the series improved a lot in the last half. While the show is still overall episodic in nature, they have begun to develop some story lines that are running in the background of multiple episodes. There are hints to a mythology being developed that might actually be pretty exciting if done right. I’m curious at the motivations of one of the supporting characters and am hoping that story is more fully developed. The finale featured a kind of played out development – the big finale twist has been done 100 times before – but at least it was a development. I’m not all in on Grimm by any stretch of the imagination, but the improvements as the series continued made me at least set the DVR to record the first few episodes of season two. There is no guarantee I’ll stick with it once my regular programs return, but I’m at least willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for a while longer and to see if it continues to improve.

Some other thoughts on season one:

  • Portland seems to have more than your average Wesen per capita, since it seems like just about everyone that Nick meets is some sort of mythical creature. The Pacific Northwest seems to be ground zero for fantasy characters – you have the vampires of Twilight hanging out near Seattle and a lot of Wesen hanging out in Portland. Maybe they all like the coffee.
  • I will say this for the series – it has made me more interested in going back and reading some of the original Grimms’ tales. I clearly do not have the working knowledge of their stories that I thought as I didn’t recognize a lot of these creatures or the tales that inspired them.
  • I’m a little confused by how some creatures know that Nick is a Grimm and why others don’t. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of consistency with that. They all know once he can see them in their creature form, but some of them have him pegged as a Grimm before that.
  • Also, I am a little perplexed about why they are all so terrified of Nick. I get that Grimms have been hunting their kind for centuries, but it’s not like Nick has any special powers other than his ability to see their true form. He’s not super strong or anything. He has to do research on how to capture/kill each creature. A guy that needs a trip to library to defeat me just isn’t that intimidating.
  • While I get a big kick out of Monroe, I also enjoy the brief appearances by Sergeant Wu. He is also a good source of comic relief.
  • Can we retire mythological explanations for Hitler?  Hitler is so overused in conversation – see Godwin’s Law – that is loses all effectiveness at this point. I don’t care if he committed horrific acts because he was a human, vampire or a Wesen.
  • I watched all of season one on Hulu plus and they really need to get more commercials. I saw the same 3 commercials 20 times. I’m so sick of them I have no intention of ever buying any of the products featured.
  • I did appreciate the Voodoo Donuts reference in the pilot. Someday I will have one of those donuts. They are on my food bucket list.

While ultimately I was disappointed in Grimm, I’m holding out hope that some of the promise I saw in the later episodes of season one will be more fully realized in season two. I don’t know that I will ever become a loyal viewer, but it might be a show I check in on from time to time. I understand that the show will never evolve to what I want it to be – it is probably always going to be a procedural at its heart – but some more interesting story lines that carry through multiple episodes might keep me interested. I’d like to think that some Wesen aren’t so easily caught. Build up the mythology and give some of the characters more personality and I can think of worse options for a Friday night show. Or just give Monroe a spin off – that I would tune in for.

Season two of Grimm debuts tonight at 10 pm ET on NBC and will rerun on Friday at 9 pm (its usual time slot).  This schedule will continue until Grimm resumes its regular Friday night time slot on September 14.